A powerful police boss has been dismissed; six security chiefs from Algeria’s wilayat (regions) have been sacked; the director of the border police and the director of the General Intelligence (RG) have been fired; and 30 of the country’s 48 police transmissions directors have been removed from their posts.
In less than a month, Algerian police – the largest security corps in the country, also known as the Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) – has sustained violent tremors.
The snowball effect began with the sudden dismissal of Major General Abdelghani Hamel, 62, on 26 June, in the wake of a major cocaine seizure by the Algerian army off the coast of Oran.
On 29 May, navy special forces a launched an operation on a ship from Spain, only to discover 701kg of cocaine on board, presumed to have come from Brazil.
Reacting to a leak in the press accusing his own personal driver of having ties with the alleged dealer – an influential Algerian meat importer – Hamel puzzled the public by declaring:
“If you want to fight corruption, you need to be clean yourself.”
A few hours later, the police boss was dismissed, to everyone’s astonishment. Who would have suspected that this faithful supporter of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika could have been so brutally let go? Few in Algiers would have predicted this, especially given that a number of foreign analysts and diplomats had hypothesised that Hamel could become a potential successor to Bouteflika, whose frail health has been the topic of conjecture for years.
However, Hamel’s statement cast doubt on the investigators in charge of the case, strongly displeasing decision-making circles.
“The cohesion of security bodies and institutions must remain a priority to face the various challenges at hand – namely combating corruption, which is taking on alarming dimensions and affecting nerve centres within the state itself,” a high-ranking source had told Middle East Eye at the time. “This will not go unpunished.”